A Lebanese treat
3 cups (480g) fine semolina*
250g unsalted butter, softened
½ tsp white sugar
1 tsp mahlab** (optional)
1 tsp dried yeast
2 tbsp orange-blossom water***
¼ cup (60ml) milk
icing sugar, for sprinkling (optional)
1 cup (120g) coarsely chopped pistachio nuts or walnuts
¼ cup (55g) white sugar
1 tbsp orange-blossom water
*Semolina is the flour obtained from milling either corn or the large, hard parts of wheat grain. I recommend using semolina made from wheat grain for these recipes.
**Mahlab is an aromatic spice from the kernel of the black cherry, added to some desserts. It can produce a bitter taste if too much is used.
***Orange-blossom water is liquid distilled from orange blossoms and used as a flavouring for desserts.
Place semolina, butter and sugar in a bowl and rub together with your fingertips. Leave to rest for an hour covered with plastic film.
Add the mahlab (if using), yeast, orange-blossom water and milk and mix together to form a dough.
Turn out on to a work surface, then knead.
Return to the bowl, cover and leave to sit for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 220C.
Knead the dough for five minutes to help bind it together.
To make the filling, combine all the ingredients. Spoon one tablespoon of semolina dough into your hand and shape it into a ball.
Make a hole in the centre and fill with one teaspoon of the filling.
Seal firmly and flatten slightly in the palm of your hand. Press the dough firmly into a ma'amoul mould, then tap out.
Continue with the remaining dough and filling.
Place the ma'amoul about 2.5 centimetres apart on ungreased baking trays and bake for 15 minutes or until golden. Transfer to wire racks to cool. Sprinkle the biscuits with icing sugar (if using) and store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.